What do you call it when there is more than one librarian? Some have suggested a shush, a volume, a stack or an answer, but I liked a catalog better. So why did I need to know what a group of librarians is called?
Because I was very excited to meet a former librarian. She managed a very small collection, and a recent Sydney Taylor Book Award winner is based on her story. Yes, people, I met
THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ
Dita Kraus lives in Israel, and I was thrilled that when I contacted her, she graciously allowed me to visit. I don't think I had a lot of expectations about meeting her, but I had a lot of questions, most of which were answered by, "it is a work of fiction based on my experiences." But her experiences were amazing. If you haven't read the book, Dita did not even know she was Jewish until the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. Her family was deported to Terezin, where she was in the chorus of the opera Brundibar. She took painting lessons with Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.
From Terezin, her family was deported to Auschwitz, where they were assigned to the family camp in Birkenau. It was there, as a fourteen-year-old, that Dita was assigned to be an assistant in the children's "school," and given the responsibility of taking care of "the library." She would keep track of who "checked out" books and she would hide the books at the end of the day. She did not know what I imagined a library in Auschwitz would look like, so she shared the picture below that she drew:
|Otto (Ota) Kraus|
Ota (Otto) died in 2000. He published several novels: Land Without God, Mountain Wind, Tel Kotzim, and The Dream Merchant and Other Galilean Stories. I picked up a copy of The Painted Wall, Ota Kraus' "literary adaptation" of events that happened during the war. In his book, Dita is known as "Dasha," and "shepherds" H.G. Wells' A Short History of the World, Elemental Geometry for High Schools, a French novel, a Russian grammar, an outdated atlas, and "three quarters of a 19th century Czech village novel."
No Real Cats, but something equally great - after I visited with Dita, I drove a little farther up the highway and bought some cheese and freshly picked strawberries - the completion of a great day.